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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Can you find the gamer?

OK. So, I watched it. The 60 Minutes piece on the Devin Moore trial, which probably bears some relinking. It was every bit as bad as I expected.

First, is it really considered good journalism to start your piece with questioning whether one of the aspects should even exist? I mean, is there better way to color Grand Theft Auto as the villian than to open with "can you believe anyone made this stuff?" (paraphrased of course).

And also, a tip to Ed Bradley. I mean, I'm sure you have lots of experience and a degree in journalism or something so you probably aren't looking for tips (or reading this) ... but ... when a grown man you're interviewing starts talking about cranial menus you don't just take notes politely and nod, you respond:

"I'm sorry, did you just say cranial menus?"

Cranial menus? Jack Thompson compares this kid to the Terminator and Ed doesn't even bat an eye? Tell us, Jack, what options do you think exist on this cranial menu? Were there any other than "knock down police officer and kill"? Maybe if Devin had used the "help" function in his brain, he could have gotten more information about "Cranial Menus 2.0" and maybe gotten that upgrade for the "sit and make free call home" option. Does that run on Microsoft? Because I'd like to have it at home.

Seriously, how am I supposed to take this seriously? This hard-hitting investigative journalist opens by damning the focal point of the case, then softballs to a guy raving about how Devin killed people with handy access to a HUD. OK, ok, so how can we redeem this? Maybe they'll ask a scientist.

David Walsh, Child Psychologist:

You know, not every kid that plays a violent video game is gonna turn to violence. And that's because they don't have all of those other risk factors going on. It's a combination of risk factors, which come together in a tragic outcome.

So at least Ed got this little factoid out, that not even the psychologist believes that video games can be the sole casuality of an event like this. One point for Ed. Something we should point out about Dr. Walsh's studies about the brain is they are based on what happens to kids througout their stage of adolescence. Devin Moore was seventeen at the time of the attack. The CBS piece said that Moore had spent the last few "months" playing GTA frequently. I think we can do the math here.

Probably the most condemning part came from the brother of one of the slain policeman, Steve Strickland:

'Why do you make games that target people that are to protect us, police officers, people that we look up to -- people that I respect -- with high admiration. Why do you want to market a game that gives people the thoughts, even the thoughts of thinking it's OK to shoot police officers? Why do you wanna do that?

Now, this guy just lost his brother not too long ago. He was crying in the piece. He's clearly hurting. It would be somewhat mean to attack him purely on logic. However, the internet does give me that ability. Hey, don't blame me, I didn't invent the thing.

Look, Steve, video games aren't vehicles to convey respect and admiration. Hey, I think our culture needs more of that too - I just don't think it's on Rockstar's plate to deliver. Video games, like movies or books or television, are about conveying stories, ideas, interaction, puzzles, challenges - you know, entertainment. And while you might scratch your head about what is entertaining about kicking hookers ... there a millions out there who get it.

Rockstar didn't want anyone dead. They didn't raise or train Devin to be a killer. Your rage is justified, Steve, just misdirected.

OK, so surely Ed didn't just quote people from the Pro-WitchHunt camp, right? He got a First Amendment lawyer talking about censorship, and how it compares to the comic book industry of old - but more on that later today. He did get Doug Lowenstein in front of the camera and making that old rational case of "clearly, there's something else going on here." Clearly, Doug, but apparently not clear enough to some.

What's noticeable, I think, the most about the 60 Minutes piece - is what wasn't there. They had one gamer, trapped in front the largest version of Grand Theft Auto imaginable and basically edited him saying "So you have to eliminate all resistance". Yeah, that was pretty much it. According to Jack Thompson, Sony and Rockstar are busily rewiring an entire generation of children into killers. Did Ed bother to talk to any of this budding "Manchurian Children"? No. No, the only time Ed portrays a "normal" gamer, it's to quote him about killing cops. Nowhere in this piece did a camera point to a sixteen year old kid who had just spent hours playing Ratchet and Clank and not running off and killing someone.

I mean, this is all about the corruption of gamers into killing machines, but you pratically need to play a game of Where's Waldo to find one during the show.

And the other truly noticeable absence from the piece? I mean, considering this all revolves around a seventeen year old kid who shot three police officers, allegedly under the training of his game console? Well, that would be that kid?

Where is Devin Moore? Or Devin's mother? Or any of his friends? Are people shocked he did this? Did he ever beat anyone up? Was he having a bad day? How can you have a lawyer telling me about this kid's GUI and yet completely sidestep the kid?

I have two open questions after reading about this crime and now watching a piece of investigative journalism on it:

How did a seventeen year old get possession of a police-issue glock from within a Police Station?


Why is nobody else asking that question?

Update: More thoughts here.

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